Blues in the Hood Brings Arts Back to the Community Print
Music - Feature Stories
Tuesday, 11 June 2002 18:00
Live music isn’t an endangered species, but there are certainly fewer and fewer venues offering it these days. That’s a stark contrast to a time when music was everywhere in the community. “These are significantly different times,” said Nate Lawrence.

“There was a time when the arts didn’t have to be featured in the community” at special venues and events, said local performance poet Shellie Moore Guy. “They were just there.”

While adults can still attend arts events, many young people lose out, especially when it comes to live music, because much of it is being performed in 21-and-over clubs. “Children are missing out,” Guy said.

But a newly formed organization called Polyrhythms is trying to not only provide an outlet for live music but also bring it back to the neighborhood. The group, headed by Lawrence and Guy, was behind March’s Jazz & Blues Restoration Project (three days of concerts and student workshops), and it’s scheduled the second Blues in the Hood festival for August 3 and 4.

The free two-day event will be held from 1 to 9 p.m. on August 3 at 13th Avenue and 13th Street in East Moline (known as The District Too), and from 1 to 9 p.m. on August 4 at 9th Street and 11th Avenue in Rock Island (the former Franklin School).

Last year, Blues in the Hood piggybacked with a block party in The District Too, “kind of a bare-bones affair,” Lawrence said. “Last year was all about the music.”

This year, it’s expanded – not just in terms of locations but in scope, as well. There will still be plenty of music, including Billy Branch & The Sons of Blues, Big Hal Reed & Bad Luck, Elixir Featuring Claudie Smith, New Complexion, Neighborhood Players, The Gospel Divas, Shellie Moore Guy, Eladio Pena & Oh Yeah, and Metro Youth Group. (All but Branch’s band are local – another example of the group’s commitment to the community.)

But there will also be a tent set up as an African Village featuring an African drummer, drum circle, African dance, and storytelling; a reading circle involving community members reading their favorite books and folk tales to encourage literacy; and a video kiosk at which senior citizens will be able to tell their stories. (Polyrhythms plans to create an oral, written, and photographic history using these videos.)

“The idea is to bring the arts back into the community in a neighborhood sort of fashion” Guy said. “The idea is to bring people together and reinforce the interconnectedness.”

Lawrence said the event is meant to instill “community values” in the neighborhood, and that it’s important to bring arts and culture to people, rather using arts to draw people from their homes. “One of the things we were really interested in was ownership,” he said.

That’s one reason that other Polyrhythms projects – including the Jazz & Blues Restoration Project and the Ebony Expressions Book Discussions – aren’t at set venues, instead giving different communities the opportunities to attend arts events near their homes. “We move around,” Guy said.

Although the Blues in the Hood event is neighborhood-based, Guy said it’s not meant to exclude anybody. “We hope that people from all over the community come,” she said.

Approximately 300 people came to last year’s Blues in the Hood event, and Guy anticipates and wants much more. “That was just a drop in the bucket,” she said.

Polyrhythms is also planning future Jazz & Blues Restoration Project events. Guy said to expect another event in the next six months, and Polyrhythms is exploring the possibility of a concert at Circa ’21.

For more information about Polyrhythms, call (309)236-0979 or (309)786-2732.